Comments: Lord Harries: speech in Lords debate on LGBTI Citizens Worldwide

I agree with everything Harries says, with one crucial exception: given its ongoing institutional homophobia, the Church of England is in no position, whatsoever, to lecture African provinces about equality and inclusion.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 23 September 2015 at 3:57pm BST

Pace James, it is because it is struggling openly with the issue, and is prepared to acknowledge its divisions, that the C of E's witness is more powerful. We come at it, not from a position of power, but from one of weakness, and in many cases, repentance. We need to be careful that we do not fall into the trap of power and violence to impose our will on others.

Posted by gerry reilly at Wednesday, 23 September 2015 at 5:31pm BST

James and others: please read the whole debate. What struck me was the very negative things that some other peers said about the way that the serving bishops were conspicuous by their absence. I hope that someone will seek an explanation, because it has to be concluded that their absence was deliberate.

Posted by Turbulent priest at Wednesday, 23 September 2015 at 5:50pm BST

Excellent speech by Lord Harries. Separating the religious from the civic spheres is a crucial step.

Where were the Lords Spiritual during these speeches? Baroness Northover speaks of their absence.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 23 September 2015 at 6:40pm BST

I've read Harries' speech in its entirety, along with much of the surrounding debate. I agree it was, on the whole, excellent. It does nothing to bolster the Church of England's moral authority on this issue, or the need for it to get its own house in order before telling others how to run theirs.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 23 September 2015 at 11:52pm BST

Who was the Duty Bishop, detailed to lead the Prayers, last week in the House of Lords when this debate took place on 17th September?

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 24 September 2015 at 5:37am BST

Bishop Harries is one of the most humane and enlightened figures in Anglicanism, and he addresses the problem of African homophobia here with courage and honesty.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Thursday, 24 September 2015 at 6:21am BST

Lord Harries, when he was Bishop of Oxford, was known to have commended the election of Fr. Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading. No doubt he was surprised when Archbishop Rowan Williams (then ABC, but now Lord Williams - also with a seat on the H. of L.) requested J.J. to retire from that election - because of the pressure from homophobic Primates from the Global South.

One wonders how many Anglican Bishops in the House of Lords would have applauded Lord Harries' speech in the House, recommending the British Government's intervention on behalf of the Gay community around the world. Not many one suspects.

What would have been good, would be for Lord Williams to have been at the meeting to affirm the crying need of proactive intervention with world governments on behalf of the LGBTI people some of our own Prelates in Gafcon Provinces still seek to vilify and condemn.

Thank God for the intestinal fortitude of Lord Harries, whose own conscience is alive and well on this important issue for the Anglican Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 24 September 2015 at 11:28am BST

Splendid speech by Lord Harries. If he had been chosen to serve as Archbishop of Canterbury in his day the Church would now be in a very different place. It is so sad

Posted by Revd Jean Mayland at Thursday, 24 September 2015 at 4:30pm BST

> What would have been good, would be for Lord Williams to have been at the meeting to affirm the crying need of proactive intervention with world governments on behalf of the LGBTI people some of our own Prelates in Gafcon Provinces still seek to vilify and condemn.

Why would Lord Williams do that? He sold out to the Primates of the Global South in 2003 and has done nothing for LGBTI people since.

Posted by Robin at Thursday, 24 September 2015 at 5:06pm BST

According to Hansard, prayers were led by the Lord Bishop of Sheffield.

Posted by Turbulent Priest at Thursday, 24 September 2015 at 7:12pm BST

Agreed, Robin.

Rowan Williams has never gone to bat for LGBT people: he published a sympathetic academic paper back in the '80s, ordained a few closeted priests, and that's about it. At heart, he's an authoritarian Anglo-Catholic, who puts church unity above all. There's no evidence that he even holds an affirming position, or has done for a long time.

It's bizarre that this deeply conservative member of the Anglican establishment, who contemptuously denounced liberal theology in an open letter to John Shelby Spong, and appointed N.T. Wright as his episcopal aide-de-camp, could ever be percieved as a liberal.

Posted by James Byron at Thursday, 24 September 2015 at 11:49pm BST

Why would Lord Williams do that? He sold out to the Primates of the Global South in 2003 and has done nothing for LGBTI people since.

Posted by: Robin on Thursday,"

Please don't sell ++Rowan Williams short. I believe he did what he could only have done in the circumstances. He weighed up the lack of support he would have found among the English Bishops - on this issue of 'lack of nerve' about dealing with homophobia in the Communion at that time - and found their likelihood of support wanting.

I believe this was a similar situation experienced by Lord Runcie, when he was in charge, on the issue of Women Clergy. Backbone is excellent to have in hindsight, but it needs supporting tissue to support it. I believe the supporting tissue in the C. of E. House of Bishops was not there at the time of The bishop of Oxford's proposal of Jeffrey John's election to that House.

Everyone was aware of Rowan Williams' support of Gay people in the Church. However, the Church did not support his outlook at the time and he was stymied. His time as trend-setter has now gone, unfortunately, but both he and archbishop Runcie did their level best in the circumstances.

Maybe the present archbishop is on the right path with his appeal to 'Unity in Diversity' Let those who hear the call rally around, while those who insist on out-dated Uniformity - at the expense of Justice - pursue their limited goal.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 25 September 2015 at 7:07am BST

It's a major human rights issue of our time. Yet the Bishops' Bench was empty for a speech by one of their own.

That speaks volumes about the Church of England. Even on a day when an Archbishop gave the Bishops very public cover to disagree with other Communion churches, none of the Bishops dared to show up to listen.

This does not bode well for the so-called "listening process."

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 25 September 2015 at 9:17am BST

Agree with many here, especially Jeremy. Our bishops and archbishops are in this respect disgraceful. They themselves must know how shoddy they are. A great cheer for all the 'noble lords' (not my normal vocabulary) who spoke, especially Harries and Fowler, who has grown remarkably in stature since the great AIDS crisis of the late 80s.

Posted by John at Friday, 25 September 2015 at 12:39pm BST

Father Ron, in 2003, a substantial number of English bishops released a letter supportive of Jeffrey John, but even if Williams had stood alone, he had no excuse for not taking a stand. Leaders are supposed to lead. He could've tried to fight, or resigned in protest. This isn't hindsight, people at the time were outraged at his capitulation.

This was a case in which a gay man who obeyed even the church's discriminatory rules was driven from his job by a mob who flouted them. You couldn't find a clearer example of prejudice-fueled injustice, and Williams caved.

God save us from the white moderates.

Posted by James Byron at Friday, 25 September 2015 at 2:32pm BST

Having left Episcopalian / Anglicanism altogether and joined the ELCA, I haven't been paying much attention recently to "all that," but Lord Harries's excellent speech has me wanting to think out loud.

I am struck by his repeated calls for the African churches to accept that there is a difference between the disciplines imposed on church members, as such, and the laws governing the conduct of all citizens of a nation, both churched and unchurched.

I wonder whether the lingering "Catholic" notes of the Church of England -- e.g. its special role in Government, or its approach to parish membership -- make it difficult for its leadership to accept that the duties and prohibitions enjoined on Church of England members are not binding on all citizens of the nation. Perhaps this "Catholic" approach has been communicated to the churches of its former colonies, now the "Global South," so that they also believe their particular beliefs should be made binding law for all citizens of their nations.

In the United States, "Establishment" of this kind is forbidden by the Constitution. The Episcopal Church in the US has all the notes of a church to which one belongs by choice, rather than a church co-extensive with a nation, something Canterbury never seemed willing to understand.

On the other hand, US Protestant Evangelicals, the supporters of African Anglicanism, often try to chip away or circumvent the prohibitions against Establishment. This is a continuing feature of American life. It may be that their Calvinist tradition encourages them to inscribe their beliefs in the civil law, fulfilling what they believe is a command to enforce the Law on the reprobate as well as the elect.

The Lutheran tradition is different. Acceptance of religious pluralism was enforced on the churches of the Holy Roman Empire in the aftermath of the Thirty Years' War, and by the end of the 18th century the leading state in the Protestant lands, Prussia, had developed something close to religious neutrality in the modern sense. (Later, though, there was some backsliding.)

Here might be one of the reasons that Lutherans have, by and large, been able to avoid the destructive and cruel debates over sexuality that have torn the Anglican Communion apart. Marriage, to Luther and his tradition, is a civil matter, governed by civil laws. In most Lutheran traditions, the civil and religious spheres are inherently separate, and only in extreme circumstances should one trespass on the other's territory. I think it's a better model for the mainstream American Protestant tradition, which is why I continue to hope for "ever closer union" between TEC and ELCA.

Posted by Charlotte at Friday, 25 September 2015 at 5:26pm BST

"God save us from the white moderates!"

And from the Immoderates of any hue!

"Let us REASON together. The past is past. Do we have a future, in Communion?"

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 25 September 2015 at 9:23pm BST

Charlotte, Lutheran pluralism is indeed why, here at least, they managed to avoid the tearing and destruction. There were already different synods of the church allowed into the same geographic area. ELCA for liberals, Missouri for conservatives, and a few more here and there. Unfortunately they exist because of prior splits and mergers. Several churches and priests switched synods in both directions and most were allowed to keep the building. It's much easier to avoid a public spectacle if the majority is free to go where they want and still remain a part of the church. Anglicanism, for all its vaunted "via media", is more "all or nothing." Perhaps Welby's attempt to get the Primates together and change the communion and churches in America joining other Anglican churches is the beginning of a similar system of synods in Anglicanism.

Posted by Chris H. at Saturday, 26 September 2015 at 3:04am BST

Much in what Charlotte says. Many Christians simply can't see - still less accept - the distinction between religious and civil dictates. When you try arguing it to them, they start spluttering about 'the exclusion of Christianity from public life', 'the oppression of Christians', etc. They're not helped by the fact that people who really should know better (like NT Wright, even R Williams) tend to say similar things.

Posted by John at Saturday, 26 September 2015 at 11:06am BST
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